Elizabeth Farrelly

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Dr Elizabeth Farrelly
Elizabeth Farrelly.jpeg
Dunedin, New Zealand
OccupationWriter, academic
CitizenshipAustralia, New Zealand
Alma materUniversity of Sydney (Ph.D.)

Dr Elizabeth Margaret Farrelly (born 1957 in Dunedin, New Zealand), is a Sydney-based author, architecture critic, essayist, columnist and speaker who was born in New Zealand but later became an Australian citizen. She has contributed to current debates about aesthetics and ethics; design, public art and architecture; urban and natural environments; society and politics, including criticism of the treatment of Julian Assange.[1][2][3][4] Profiles of her have appeared in the New Zealand Architect, Urbis, The Australian Financial Review, the Australian Architectural Review, and Australian Geographic.

Farrelly's range of interests and contributions are wide enough to have caused her to be described by broadcaster Geraldine Doogue as a "Renaissance woman".[5] She was elected to the 2021 board of the National Trust of Australia (NSW).[6]

Her portrait by Mirra Whale was a finalist in the 2015 Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.[7]

Education and training[edit]

Farrelly was born in Dunedin, New Zealand and trained as an architect in Auckland. She left New Zealand in 1983 for London, moved to Sydney in October 1988 and became an Australian citizen in 1991. She holds a PhD in architecture from the University of Sydney. Her thesis examined of the intellectual, cultural and political background to development control in Sydney's city centre from 1900–1960.[8]


Architectural practice[edit]

Farrelly practised as an architect in London until 1988, working at Pollard Thomas and Edwards Architects, London; at JASMaD Architects, Auckland; and Warren and Mahoney, Christchurch.

Public service[edit]

In Sydney, she served as an independent Councillor of the City of Sydney from 1991 to 1995, where she was a member of the Central Sydney Planning Committees, Chair of the Civic Design Sub-Committee and member with Paul Keating of the Project Control Group for the East Circular Quay redevelopment adjacent to the Sydney Opera House. Her interest focussed on the quality of the city's public spaces. She served as a juror for design awards such as Parramatta Design Excellence Awards and the Royal Australian Institute of Architects Awards.


Farrelly has taught at the University of Sydney as well as the University of New South Wales where she is Associate Professor (Practice) in the UNSW Graduate School of Urbanism; the University of Technology, Sydney, where she was Adjunct Associate Professor of Architecture; the University of Auckland; the Royal College of Art, London; the Humberside Polytechnic and the Architectural Association School of Architecture, London. Farrelly has set writing for Wikipedia as a task for post-graduate students, and has commented that its demand for every input to be traceable and published, enables "genuine crowd-sourcing of scholarship" and is both "a revelation and a revolution".[9]

Criticism and commentary[edit]

As a professional architecture critic, Farrelly has quoted a study saying that architecture is "the most public art form and, curiously, the least subject to public debate" but that its task is to "distinguish the good, the bad and the reasons".[10] As an urban design professional, she wrote: "Towns are public things. They centre on shared delight, with roosting space not just for the rich but for all, and not just for the body, but the soul."[11] Her essays have been published internationally in specialist, professional and academic journals, including The Architectural Review, for which she was assistant editor and contributor from 1985 to 1987 and The Architects' Journal (London); The Architecture Bulletin; Architecture Australia; Architectural Theory Review; Architectural Record (New York); Architectural Design (Moscow); Metropole (New York); Statement (The Hague); and Bauwelt (Germany).

As well as analyses and reviews for academics and practitioners,[12] Farrelly writes for the general public about the principles, morality, aesthetics and function of architecture, especially on Sydney.[13][14][15][16] Critiques of major social issues encompass those relating to urban development,[17] in particular transportation[18] and building standards,[19][20] as well as those relating to environmental degradation,[21][22] and climate change.[23][24]

Contributions for the general public appear in newspapers such as the New Zealand Herald and the National Business Review (NZ), and in The Sydney Morning Herald, for which she wrote a weekly column and regular essays until 2021. Writer Tim Blair has written about Farrelly in the Daily Telegraph, calling her a 'frightbat' and criticising her for charging people to work on her farm digging holes. Her essay on "the destructive myth of professionalism" was noted as among the editor's best comment pieces of 2015.[25][26] Critiques concerning other significant Australian buildings include those relating to proposed changes to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra,[27] and the proposed destruction of Sydney's Powerhouse Museum along with the break up of its unique collections.[28][29] In December 2021, Farrelly's three-decade association with The Sydney Morning Herald came to an end when her column was terminated by editor Bevan Shields, after Farrelly had registered as a Labor Party candidate for Strathfield in the 2021 local government elections and had subsequently written a piece criticising Liberal and independent candidates in that election without declaring her own potential candidacy.[30][31]

In her role as critic and commentator, Farrelly has had reviews of books and exhibitions published in a range of journals. She has also been interviewed by the television and radio media, including the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the BBC World Service. Reviews include "Superior Seidler - Review of Harry Seidler" in Architectural Review (London).[32] Interviews include for the programs of Philip Adams, Mike Carlton, David Marr, Kerry O’Brien, Margaret Throsby, and Alan Saunders.

Public speaking[edit]

Farrelly has been invited to speak at a wide range of public events, including panels, symposia, conferences, and festivals. Examples include as speaker in 2004 and 2005 on "Sydney's Working Harbour" at the Working Harbour Forum in the Sydney Town Hall; in July 2007 at the Byron Bay Writers Festival; in May 2009 and 2013 at the Sydney Writers' Festival; in October 2010 and 2015 at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in the Sydney Opera House in October 2011 at the Adelaide Festival of Ideas; in October 2012 as panellist at the University of Sydney's Sesquicentenary Colloquium Dinner, where her topic was "Dreaming Spires: Architecture and the learning game";[33] in 2011 and 2012 as speaker at the Art After Hours program in the Art Gallery of New South Wales; in May 2012 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia on "Writing Architecture"; in August 2014 as keynote speaker at the Green Buildings Conference in South Africa; in October 2015 for the year's final Utzon lecture at the University of New South Wales on "Architecture and Morality," exploring the relationship between ethics and aesthetics in architecture;[34][35] in 2015 at the New Zealand Institute of Architects and on "Beauty" at the St James Institute in Sydney; in 2018 on "Architecture, cities and houses, design, the arts, planning, the environment and social commentary" at Sydney University's Sydney Centennial Symposium: "Cathedral Thinking – Designing for the Next Century".[36]

Published works[edit]


  • (1993) Three Houses by Glenn Murcutt, Phaidon, London, ISBN 0714828750
  • (2007) Blubberland -The Dangers of Happiness: A Critique of Western Living Patterns, NewSouth Books, Sydney and MIT Press, Boston (2008) ISBN 978-0-86840-837-8
  • (2012) Potential Difference: Assays and Sorties, Sydney, NSW, ISBN 9780646589282
  • (2012) H2o Architects to 2012, Macmillan Art Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria ISBN 9781921394980
  • (2014) Caro Was Here, Walker Books, Australia ISBN 9781922244833
  • (2021) Killing Sydney - The fight for a city's soul, Picador Australia ISBN 9781760552589

Part books[edit]

  • (1991) " ‘Why Sydney Finds it so Hard to Shape Up,’ review of planning failures in Ultimo-Pyrmont" in Waterfront housing and inner city redevelopment: proceedings of the Sydney seminar, Lea, J.P. and Dalton S., (Eds), Ian Buchan Fell Research Centre, Faculty of Architecture, University of Sydney, Sydney ISBN 0855770228
  • (1998) "Architecture and Urban Design" in The Best of Sydney, Ross Muller (ed), Sydney Morning Herald Books, Sydney, ISBN 1862901236
  • (2005) "Pipedreaming the Harbour" in Sitelines: aspects of Sydney Harbour: a collection of essays celebrating Sydney Harbour, Federation Trust, ISBN 0975109405
  • (2005) "Powerhouse, Dreaming House", in Yesterday's Tomorrows: the Powerhouse Museum and its precursors 1880-2005, Graeme Davison and Kimberley Webber (eds), Powerhouse Publishing with UNSW Press, Haymarket, NSW, ISBN 0868409855
  • (2006) "‘Beauty, Exclusionism and Stuff; the basis of community?’" in Talking about Sydney: population, community and culture in contemporary Sydney, Robert Freestone, Bill Randolph and Carol Butler-Bowdon (eds), UNSW Press with Historic Houses Trust, ISBN 0868409383
  • (2008) "‘Tall Tales’, the advent of Sydney high-rise" in Modern Times: the untold story of modernism in Australia, Ann Stephen, Philip Goad and Andrew McNamara (eds) Miegunyah Press, Carlton, Victoria, ISBN 9780522855517
  • (2008) "Sidney Nolan" and "‘The Corner Shop" in Australian Greats, Peter Cochrane (ed) William Heinemann Australia, North Sydney NSW, ISBN 9781741665925
  • (2009) "Sydney" in The Great Cities in History, John Julius Norwich (ed) London; New York, N.Y.: Thames & Hudson, ISBN 9780500251546

Awards for writing[edit]


  1. ^ "Elizabeth Farrelly". Newspaper contributor biography. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  2. ^ "In the case of Assange, truth is actively and repeatedly punished". Farrelly, Elizabeth (12 April 2012). "Truth of Assange is stranger than fiction". The National Times. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  3. ^ "Assange had not been charged with any crime." Farrelly, Elizabeth (29 November 2012). "Ambassador's rage doesn't dispel facts". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  4. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (29 February 2020). "The only questions that should matter in the Assange extradition battle". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  5. ^ Doogue, Geraldine (12 September 2009). "Creative Thinking: Elizabeth Farrelly". Interview (and transcript). ABC Radio National. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
  6. ^ "The National Trust of Australia (NSW) Board Members 2021". National Trust. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  7. ^ "Archibald Prize Finalists: Elizabeth". Art Gallery of New South Wales. Retrieved 9 July 2015.
  8. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (1997). "The Sydney height of buildings story : an examination of the intellectual, cultural and political background to development control in Sydney City Centre 1900-1960". Fisher Library University of University.
  9. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (9 December 2015). "Don't fall for Wiki-denial: there's nothing wrong with using Wikipedia". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  10. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (10 May 2012). "Bold, frank criticism can only nourish architecture". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  11. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (29 September 2019). "Buried treasure at the heart of hideous Green Square".
  12. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (February 2001). "Review of Renzo Piano's Aurora Place, Sydney". The Architectural Review.
  13. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (30 March 2019). "Five ways Sydney is determined to self-sabotage". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  14. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (13 April 2019). "Sydney's rubbish buildings demand we ask architecture's central question". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  15. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (3 March 2019). "How to save Sydney". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  16. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (21 February 2020). "Sydney and the Seven Deadly Sins of City-Making". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  17. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (3 August 2019). "Sydney stuck with the bad decisions of those blinded by big piles of dosh".
  18. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (29 January 2015). "WestConnex: the road to ruin is paved with more roads". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  19. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (1 June 2019). "The barrier between you and disaster is staggeringly unregulated".
  20. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (26 July 2019). "Sydney's stupidest building boom was born in a bonfire of regulation". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  21. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (9 March 2019). "Honey, we shrunk the bee and insect species that feed us". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  22. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (24 November 2018). "Why I love my DIY dunny". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  23. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (25 May 2018). "Our role in the death of a river". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  24. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (10 August 2019). "Forgiving land clearers because of drought is like comforting a fat child with chocolate". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  25. ^ Editor (30 December 2015). "15 of our best comment pieces of 2015". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 January 2016. {{cite news}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  26. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (21 October 2015). "You don't have a career. You have a life". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  27. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (30 November 2019). "Dull, wasteful and overblown - is this the best Australia can do?". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  28. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (21 December 2019). "Gladys Berejiklian's Christmas gift to Sydney will disappoint". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  29. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (20 June 2020). "Powerhouse will run out of puff in Parramatta". The Sydney Morning Herald.
  30. ^ Samios, Zoe (12 December 2021). "Elizabeth Farrelly departs The Sydney Morning Herald". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  31. ^ Carey, Alexis (12 December 2021). "Sydney Morning Herald columnist Elizabeth Farrelly 'terminated' after 'five-minute' phone call". news.com.au. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  32. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (April 1994). "Superior Seidler - Review of 'Harry Seidler' by Kenneth Frampton and Philip Drew". Architectural Review. 194 (1166): 96–97. ISSN 0003-861X.
  33. ^ Farrelly, Elizabeth (12 October 2002). "Dreaming Spires: Architecture and the learning game". Sesquicentenary Colloquium Dinner. Archived from the original on 10 September 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
  34. ^ Green Building Conference Programme 17&18 June 2014
  35. ^ "2014 Utzon lecture: Architecture and Morality: Geometries of virtue". Archived from the original on 16 October 2014. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  36. ^ The University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning (2–3 August 2018). "Centenary Symposium: Cathedral Thinking – Designing for the Next Century". The University of Sydney.

External links[edit]